Creative Photographic - Portrait Tips
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Tips for getting the most
out of your portrait session

These tips will help you plan for your portrait session. In general, the more preparation you put into your session, the better your final portraits will be. Making good clothing and accessory choices for your portraits is an important part of preparing for a successful session. If the clothing stands out in a portrait, it could easily become a distraction. Clothing that does not attract attention to itself is the ultimate goal. It could be the difference between a very successful portrait and just another picture.
  1. Dark Clothing blends the bodies with the background, so that the faces are the most important part of the photograph. Dark colors also tend to slenderize the subject. Light colors seem to add weight to the body.
  2. The color of your clothing should be toned down. Bright colors attract attention away from the face.
  3. Choose colors that you know compliment your skin tones. If you’re not sure, think of the clothes you wear that you receive compliments on. Usually, you look good in them because their color brings out your best facial tones.
  4. Clothing for group portraits should be carefully chosen so group members blend together. Decide whether you wish to blend by using warm-tones, such as browns and tans, or cool-tones, such as blues, grays and blacks. Family groups look their best when a whole family is color coordinated. An example could be everyone wearing black shirts and blue jeans.
  5. Tone is the lightness or darkness of the color you choose. If your portrait is to be taken with a light backdrop, choose a light tone of clothing. For a dark backdrop, choose a darker tone. The reason tone is so important is that the eye goes to the area of greatest contrast, and the best portraits bring the eye to the face of the subject. When extreme tonal changes occur in the clothing chosen, then the eye tends to focus on the clothes.
  6. Generally, it is better to wear long pants and long sleeve shirts. When arms and legs are exposed to the camera there will be more flesh in the photograph in those areas. This will detract from the face itself.
  7. White shirts and/or blouses under a dark jacket are perfect for more formal poses.
  8. Neckties should be toned-down in color and with a minimum amount of pattern.
  9. Solid colors are most often best, because they do not draw attention away from the face. However, a very subtle pattern is fine and does add some variety. "Loud" patterns are not recommended.
  10. Casual shirts and jeans, etc. look great for a contemporary pose, but don’t forget to also include an outfit that is more "dressy." We can capture images that are as casual or as formal as you wish.
  11. Simple, soft fabrics that follow the body’s natural contours are often a good choice. Avoid baggy clothing and an abundance of lace or frills, which can be overpowering.
  12. Some poses will be full-length so don’t forget to bring shoes/boots and socks for each outfit that you plan to wear.
  13. Finally, pull together all of the clothing you are considering and lay it out on a bed, including shoes, socks, stockings - everything should be included. Then, take a careful look at your collection. If your eye goes to any one item in particular, you can be certain that the same thing will happen in a photograph. You should consider changing that item. If you are not sure, bring it with you! It is better to have too many clothes at your session, than too few!
  14. Two common problems are guys bringing the incorrect color of socks, and ladies having only darker or lighter undergarments that show through the opposite color of clothing. Please plan carefully when putting together your outfits.
  15. Clothing made of material that wrinkles easily should be changed into at the session location. Careful pressing of clothing is more important than how new it is. Photographs do not show the age of the clothes, but they will show wrinkles.
  16. When it comes to jewelry, generally simpler is better unless you are trying to go with a "flashy" look.
  17. As far as makeup is concerned, ladies just do what you would normally do when applying your makeup, as if preparing for an evening at a special event: tastefully a little stronger than for daytime. It’s a good idea to bring all your makeup to the session along with some tissues and cold cream. We can have a makeup artist available for you if you wish. Men will tend to intentionally overlook makeup, but GUYS, before disregarding the idea of makeup, look in a mirror at your face. What color is your skin? How’s the complexion? Circles under the eyes? Are your nose and forehead shiny? You want to look your best in your portrait. It’s perfectly OK for men to put a little powder on the forehead and nose for portraits (we won’t tell anyone).
  18. Make sure your hair is clean and styled the way you want it when you get to the session (unless you have requested hair and makeup as part of your session). And bring your brush, comb, spray, gel, whatever you might need to re-do it! If your hair needs to be cut before the session, have it done at least a week prior to having your portraits made. If you are having your hair styled specifically for the session, have it done just before going to the studio.
  19. Props can establish a mood and represent your uniqueness. If you have a special hobby such as sports, art, music, hunting/fishing, etc., feel free to bring your own personal props with you. Bring items that reflect your personal style, personality and interests such as a favorite cap or hat, golf club, tennis racket, fishing rod, hunting rifle, or skateboard (for seniors - letter jacket, football jersey and football, cheerleader uniform, etc.). You are very welcome to bring a favorite pet if you wish, but please note that there will be an additional fee as outlined in our session pricing. Any pets that are unfriendly or don’t do well around strangers would probably not be a good choice. Also, if you are interested in including a hunting rifle, shotgun, etc. in your session, please make arrangements with us prior to the day of your shoot.
  20. Practicing facial expressions in a mirror prior to your session is a tip that all professional models use to learn how a certain expression "feels". This allows you to learn how to call up that special facial expression on a whim. This can be very helpful for people that are uncomfortable smiling, or those who have trouble with "serious" expressions.
  21. If you give some thought to posing before going into your session, it’ll be easier to work with your photographer, and you will look more natural and relaxed in your portraits. In the weeks or days preceding your portrait session be particularly aware of people you see in commercials, movies, magazines, TV shows, at the park, at home, at a friend’s house. Try to see poses of individuals, or groups, which look good, and portray a quality of feeling or emotion as in a good painting. Imagine yourself or your group in the same or similar pose.
  22. If you normally wear glasses, they should be part of your portrait. We will control the reflections to the best of our ability by adjusting your pose and working our magic in post-capture processing. Some people prefer to ask their optometrist to loan them a frame with no lenses for their portrait session.
  23. Eat and sleep ... especially after being merry. Try to get enough rest the night before your session. If you are tired, it will show in your eyes and face. Also, be sure to eat before your session so that you are not famished and have plenty of energy to give your session your all.
  24. Family or friends are welcome to come and watch at your session. However, please keep in mind that too many guests will distract you and may not allow you the concentration you need to look your best in your portraits.
  25. Don’t stress! We will do everything in our power to make your shoot fun and exciting. Even though the list above is exhaustive, don’t let yourself get stressed out about it. They are only tips for you to consider. The benefit of working with a professional photographer is that we are able to adapt to many situations and are experienced at getting great portraits when things are not 100% perfect. Do your best to prepare, and leave the rest to us!
The bottom line is this: we want you to look your best for your portraits! Just be sure you dress in something comfortable and do what you must in order to be relaxed during your session. Come to your session with a positive attitude and be ready for some fun!